When first I visited the Continent
it was on business, not on pleasure bent;
and though that trip was long, long years ago
(when trains were fast and aeroplanes were slow)
there was no easyJet, no Ryanair,
but BEA would always get you there;
what’s more, you’d fly in comfort and at ease,
with ample room for arms, and legs, and knees;
and, even if your flight was tourist class,
your drinks weren’t served in plastic, but in glass.
There was no euro then, the pound was king
and two crisp notes bought almost anything;
the Deutschmark, lire and French franc
were currencies of far, far lower rank.
Those days are gone. The ‘Grand Tour’ is no more –
replaced by budget trips, cheap holidays galore,
and primped-up country villages where drink
is over-priced, and local pissoires stink.
So, ere you plan your summer holiday,
take heed of what this traveller has to say…
and be advised, there are some things to know
about those places you may wish to go.
In each EU city, whichever the one
you’ll be caught in a horrid, tsunami-like run
of self-centred tourists with cameras on sticks
whose driving ambitions are ‘selfie’ style pics
(with Nice as the backdrop, or Florence or Rome
to bore all their friends when they’re finally home).
There are Yanks chewing gum (when their jaws drop in awe
the wads they’ve been ‘chawing’ plop onto the floor,
and these unpleasant signs of the modern-day vandals
will cling to your soles, or mess up your sandals).
There are wrinkled white women who try to look glamorous
as they pose in bright frocks for the Polaroid cameras,
or trawl the city’s stradas like a clutch of hungry vultures,
tearing at the entrails of the Classic arts and cultures.
There are Chinese from Beijing draped with cameras and phones;
there are Chechens, there are Russians from former Soviet zones;
there are Indians in white turbans, scar-faced men from Senegal,
and hordes of Bangladeshies – fat, skinny, short or tall.
In the cobble-stone squares with a fountain or statue,
where dark crouching beggars poke begging-bowls at you.
You’ll be hassled by hucksters and hustled by Huns
whose big-bosomed hausfraus and leder-hosed sons
are notoriously pushy at pool-side resorts;
you’ll see Brendas from Blackpool , bums squeezed into shorts;
and Elsies from Essex, their minds without thought,
as they boast to each other of things they have bought,
and the nights filled with giggles and ‘uppers’ and booze
and they woke up next morning with garish tattoos;
and brash, pushy Aussies with rucksacks and rollers
who bump out of their way any unwary strollers…
So throw back your shoulders and push out your chest,
And stick out your elbows (right angles are best).
Recall the Grand Tour; but –whatever may pass –
though you may be a tourist, try to travel first class.